Transitioning a Culture

Seizing opportunities to impact culture in change management

How do you navigate change? How do you merge two very different ways of doing things into one cohesive team?

From SiriusXM and Pandora to Bayer and Monsanto, 2018 has been another banner year for mergers and acquisitions. According to PitchBook there were more than 4,400 deals valued at $763.3 billion in the 2Q 2018 alone. With that level of activity, some of the biggest companies in the U.S. are spending most of their time navigating the waters of transitional impact, along with their business growth.

Even if an individual company isn’t involved in change management, the reverberation to the industry as a whole can be huge. Disrupting everything from distribution to logistics and sourcing to profitability. Along with this, the effect on your human resources can be substantial.

How can you seize the opportunity that change affords to create a new workplace culture? Do you know what you want your ideal culture to look like? Do you know how to get where you want to go? With all culture changes the real question is …  How do you transition the people?

As difficult as a merger can be, integrating two cultures into one is much more difficult, especially when the goal is to create a better one. There isn’t a magic pill for integration and culture change. But there are principles that the best change advocates out there know. The key is adopting them early in the change process to support culture development plans through difficult first phases, and to reinforce that vision later when the dust settles.

1. People are the most important lever in any organization

Change management puts every financial asset and deficit on the table, except the one that can’t be categorized: human will. Performance is personal, and a change can easily elicit personal effort and crush it. If sensitivity to the employee experience is built into the process from the beginning, people are more likely to provide the excitement and hope that boosts productivity and profitability. Knowing how your people are hardwired helps you help them. Engagement is critical to success.

2. Senior team alignment and collaboration is essential.

When everything is spelled out and double-checked, it can seem as though all decisions are in alignment. They may be, but culture is fluid and can be unpredictable. How you are communicating these shifts is critical to their success. Early alignment around culture, goals, and “new normals” can lead to consistency and faster non-financial decisions later. Make sure you have a champion to point out cultural issues that could be overlooked both in the initial stages and in real-time as teams and processes are fully online in the organization.

3. Measurement Key.

Putting numbers to hard-to-measure issues, such as the extent to which new coworkers are likely to learn from each other, seems too difficult to attempt. Some companies don’t bother – they should. Get to the “WHY” around the things that are hard to measure. Why are people excited about learning new ways to do their job? How do these things pertain to performance?

All three points center on people … because integration is a human endeavor. To succeed in building an assimilated culture, we must define what we need from people and know how to get it! No magic pill to changing culture, but proven insight into the groundwork your culture champions lay can make success a reality.


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